The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The following account of an old time incident was given by John C. Rose, formerly of near Gaither Post Office, Boone County, Ark., but now of Harrison, the County Seat of Boone.

"Many years ago when our family lived in the state of Tennessee, a man named Bob Justus lived a neighbor to us. In 1850 this man moved from Tennessee and settled on Long Creek in Carroll County, Ark. He lived on the west side of the creek at the mouth of a small stream called Dry Creek. But after residing here six years, removed to Howell County, Mo., where his mind became deranged and he was sent to the insane asylum at Jefferson City where he died in 1858.

"Justus was a farmer as well as an experienced hunter.
His main hunting ground while living on Long Creek was among the hills of this stream and the rough hills and hollows of Bear Creek where bear, deer and wild turkeys were abundant as well as panthers and wolves.

"One day in 1851, while hunting on Bear Creek, he went up a narrow rugged gorge-like form of a branch of that stream, called Barren Fork, where it is said the sun is seen only once a day and that is at twelve o’clock. As he passed on up this hollow he discovered 3 or 4 acres of fertile bottom land which he determined to clear up and put in cultivation. What his motive was in having a small field so far from his residence on Long Creek was known only to himself. Unless he thought he could collect deer pelts and furs while he was clearing the land and live among the big and little game while he was cultivating it. When he was ready to put in the crop of corn, the land did not require a fence, for settler’s stock had not yet invaded that section.

"Mr. Justus cultivated the land two or three years but the crops never benefited him any for as soon as the corn had matured, deer visited the clearing and destroyed it every year.

"In the late spring of 1852, after Justus planted the little field in corn and beans and returned home, he sent two of his children there to cut out the bushes with hoes. The children were a boy and girl named Ives and Mary. The boy was 11 years old and the girl was younger. These children being reared in a wild country were used to wild ways and did not fear wild animals and were not afraid to go anywhere they knew; and had been to Barren Fork with their father several times and Mr. Justus did not feel uneasy in sending them. They were to camp there one night and finished the job of work by noon the following day and return the same evening. Taking plenty of jerked venison and bread and a rifle and dogs for protection against wild beasts, they set out afoot. It was a long walk for children but they were accustomed to that sort of travel and arrived in the Bear Creek hills all right. Just before they reached the clearing the dogs sprang at some wild animal in the high grass and, after a short and lively chase, ran it into a cave. The children being much interested dropped their hoes and provisions, went to see what the dogs were after. Finding that it had gone into the cave, they sent the dogs in to bring it out. The dogs were well trained and needed no second order, and dashed into the opening. Soon after the dogs entered the cave, the children heard them attack something and a fierce fight went on a short time, when the dogs came rushing out. The children tried to persuade them to go in again but they seemed cowed and refused to obey. The boy grew impatient and threatened to kill the dogs for not going back for he wanted to know what sort of an animal was in the cave, and was furious because the dogs refused to go back, but without putting his threat into execution. He made up his mind to go in the cave himself and bring the beast out. Requesting his little sister to stay with the "trifling dogs" on the outside, he put down the rifle and began crawling into the opening. He had not got far on the inside before he heard some animal approach with loud coarse growls. He stopped and with a long keep butcher knife held in his right hand, intended to kill it when he got in reach, but the beast was too quick for him. For with a sudden bound the great long beast struck against the boy and knocked him over before he had time to strike a blow with the knife. The animal rushed over the prostrate boy and darted out and the brave dogs dashed at it and hurried it up a tree which stood in a few yards of the cave. Fortunately the boy was not seriously injured by the rough encounter and crawled back out of the cave more angry and wiser in some things than when he went in. When he looked up into the tree where the ugly creature lay crouched on a big limb, he remarked to the little girl that it was "the biggest wolf he ever saw." Then he picked up the gun and after taking accurate aim, pulled the trigger. As the report echoed against the steep hillsides the "wolf" fell and lay dead surrounded by the dogs ready for the attack if it gave evidence of the least sign of life. It was a yellow colored animal with a long tail. Its body including the tail was about the length of a ten foot fence rail, and the boy was highly elated about killing such an enormous "wolf"; and was not a bit irritated at the dogs now for not going back into the cave. After half an hour’s examination of the dead animal they left it where it fell and went on to work and were unmolested during the night, and returned home in the evening of the next day as Mr. Justus had told them to do, and it did not take the boy long to tell his father about the wolf going up the tree and that he could prove it by his little sister Mary. Mr. Justus informed him that it was not a wolf, for those animals could not climb trees. Being convinced that the children had killed an animal of some importance, he on the following morning early mounted a horse and taking the boy up behind him he visited the cave to ascertain the identity of the beast. He supposed that it might be a wild cat or a catamount and was more than surprised to find that it was a large panther. The old hunter congratulated the boy and girl on their skill as hunters."

The writer will add here that this feat performed by these children shows that some youngsters at least, were as fearless when encountering wild beasts as many of the famed bear hunters.

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